Readings for the 18th Sunday In Ordinary Time:

Isaiah 55:1-3
 Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
 Romans 8:35, 37-39
 Matthew 14:13-21

St. Paul makes a sweeping claim in Sunday’s second reading. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, he says. Neither “present things” nor “future things.” Nothing, nothing at all, can cut us off from God’s love for us.

Paul states this not as a theological dictum but as a personal “I believe.” “I am convinced,” he says, “that neither death, nor life ... will be able to separate us from the love of God.”

Hearing Paul’s avowal, I am forced to consider whether I am convinced of this. Do I really believe there is no anguish I might suffer in which God would not accompany me? That there is no darkness, no matter how extended – imprisonment, chronic pain, dementia – in which God would abandon me? That there is no final moment of fear of death in which his love for me would stop and I would have to go on alone? Is that what I, like St. Paul, am convinced of?

Yes.

But the way Paul couches his affirmation makes me uncomfortable. “We conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.” Knowing my weaknesses, I am less inclined to declare victory. God is faithful to me, but what about me? Will I conquer darkness or give way to it? God will always hold my hand. Will I hold onto His? Paul says two things that help me.

He speaks of “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s love for me is in Jesus of Nazareth. In a sense, Jesus is the meeting place between God and me. This meeting place between creator and creature is not a cold, marble temple but a man of flesh and blood – a man like me. Responding to God’s love is a matter of following Jesus, who knows about human sorrow and dread from the inside, from experience.

And, just before today’s reading, Paul spoke of the Spirit, God’s Spirit, that God has placed in our hearts. The Spirit in us, Paul said, cries out to God, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit who is the love of the Father given to the Son and is the Spirit of the Son who loves the Father – that Spirit, that relationship of love in God, is given to us.

These are the reasons I can hope to always hold onto God’s hand.

What about you and God’s love? What is your conviction, your hope?

Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan